Areas of Study

Language Arts
Summers-Knoll students read broadly from the best in American and international children’s literature. Themes ensure an exciting range of subject matter and cultural influences. Through exposure to good fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and drama, students gain a rich and deep understanding of the power of the written word and an expansive foundation of knowledge of the world and human nature. In whole group and individual study, students explore meaning, strengthen vocabulary, and develop understanding of the structure of language.

The writing program is integrated with reading and with the activities of each month’s theme. Students practice writing in many forms, from the journals written and drawn by our youngest students to collaborative novels. Training in writing mechanics, spelling, and penmanship is an integral part of each foray into writing, and is a part of daily classroom activity. Older children use word processing tools to facilitate editing. Small classes permit teachers to help students with the development of writing skills on a close, personal basis.

Beyond teaching the skills involved in mathematical operations, Summers-Knoll emphasizes a mastery of conceptual understanding, critical thinking, and reasoning skills. Learning takes place through creative and real-life applications and helps students progress toward using mathematics as a language.

The Singapore math program provides the backbone for Summers-Knoll’s math instruction, and provides resources to cover algebra and geometry as the students reach those levels. A combination of independent work in the Singapore books with whole group and small group lessons in creative, hands-on, and real-world math offers learning that is both grounded and adventurous. Math is held at the same time each day for all students, which allows children to work with their math peers, regardless of age.

Students learn from the beginning through the processes of scientific investigation which underlies all systematic exploration of the natural world. Through study and hands-on experimentation, they learn the skills of observing, measuring, experimenting, quantifying, predicting, analyzing, and thinking critically. In keeping with our school-wide emphasis on “Green” awareness and practices, students learn in the context of environmental understanding and exploration, engaging dynamically with the natural world. Students routinely collaborate with experts and organizations in the wider community to support their studies.

Social Studies
As children growing up in a globally connected world, our students need to learn not only about their own culture and heritage but also about those of other nations and peoples. Students develop a sense of excitement and curiosity about the past, present, and future nature of the world. They are encouraged to practice self-advocacy and social activism through democratic and service projects. This gives them a sense of the roles they might play as well-educated, ethical, and concerned world citizens.

Specialist Subjects
Our children learn music, art, French, Latin and physical education from specialist teachers. The children are encouraged to explore their creativity, curiosity and personal interests through these subjects, even as they develop skills and open doors to new perspectives and new knowledge. Our specialist teachers collaborate with homeroom teachers to extend and enrich the monthly themes.

Art is a fascinating journey into the skills of drawing, painting, design, and ceramics, integrating creative exploration of media and form, community collaborations and celebrations, history of art, and relationships with local artists and their work. Art extends organically out of and into the monthly themes, creating books during Author Month or a rainforest installation as part of the study of South America.

Foreign Languages

French- Young children possess a natural and unbounded love of learning and a joyful curiosity, and at this age their brain’s “window” for language acquisition is wide open. At Summers-Knoll the learning of the beautiful language of French, set against its rich culture and history, harnesses the students’ natural responses to learning. Here’s a sample activity. The skills of speaking, reading and writing are acquired through listening and imitation, stories and music, games and art, with an emphasis on conversational French and immersion.

Latin- The study of Latin supports children’s understanding of the English language as well as the structure of Romance languages such as French, Spanish and Italian. It develops their grasp of grammar and spelling and gives them a deep feeling for the beauty and structure of words. Latin at Summers-Knoll is based in the work of the great poets and the culture of ancient Rome. See an example here. The children are inspired by the poetry, customs and thoughts of ancient times and connect them with their own lives, customs, thoughts, and use of language.

Mandarin Chinese- Chinese language is the oldest written language in the world with incredible beauty and vitality. Known as standard Chinese, Mandarin at Summers-knoll is shown to children through music, stories, games, crafts, and even cooking. Children acquire the integrated skills of listening, speaking, reading and writing with fun and are enriched with Chinese ancient culture and history, as well as modern customs.

Physical Education
The physical education program is designed to provide our students with a variety of physical experiences ranging from gymnastics, individual and team sports and games, swimming, fitness, and wellness activities. Emphasis is placed on collaboration and teamwork (here’s an example), and establishing personal health and fitness goals in order to set children on a life-long path of making healthy choices. As a small school with a large network of community relationships, we share a gym with another small school in the neighborhood. We also use a variety of other community resources: skating, sledding, exercise trails and track in parks like Brown, Buhr and Lillie (in addition to our own wonderful County Farm Park), and swimming at the Washtenaw Recreation Center.

At Summers-Knoll, students learn music through a wide variety of experiences, including voice, experimentation with instruments, composition as well as Orff, Kodaly, and Dalcroze lessons and activities. Students work with and learn the elements of music through imitation, exploration, improvisation, creation, and literacy activities. Various musical experiences from the simple to complex, in a language that is easily understood, provide opportunities for the children to learn by doing. Melodies are rooted in folk traditions from around the world. Students learn the cultural contexts of the music; they dance and create dramatic scenes, engaging physically, intellectually and creatively on many levels. Sharing music experiences with the community is an integral part of the program.